normal day


Nothing extraordinary to post.

The library was fun. Returning to Cynthia Rylant through child #3, and her writing is every single bit as wonderful as I had remembered. Two favorite quotes of the day:

"These are kittens," he [Mr. Putter] said. "I was hoping for a cat."

"No one wants cats, sir," said the pet store lady. "They are not cute. They are not peppy."

Mr. Putter himself had not been cute and peppy for a very long time. He said, "I want a cat."







And another one...

Tabby loved Mr. Putter's tulips. She was old, and beautiful things meant more to her.


The sun was bright today, and Moses noticed his shadow on black asphalt for what might have been the first time. (I wonder if the smog in China prevented strong shadows?) Anyway, he SHOUTED and started pointing at it! "Look Mama! Jun Jun! Jun Jun!" then, "Blah, blah, blah, blah," (really fast toddler Chinese). He was amazed that our shapes were made so perfectly on the ground. It was like it was some fabulous wonder instead of something ordinary. And maybe he was right. Soooo cute.

Got some books to read for myself. That library never seems to have the books on my "seeking" list, but I DID find some Faulkner and Flannery O'Conner. I'm thinking about declaring this the autumn of Southern authors. If you have favorites in that genre, I'd love to know what they are.

Better run and get dinner on the table before the boys get home...

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something I can't do.

Add this to the list of things I physically cannot do: leave the room after goodnight kisses when a 3-year-old little boy is saying, "Nuggle. Nuggle," patting the pillow next to him, and putting a blanket over his face saying, "Where's Mosie?"

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the gift of simplicity

Best Husband in the World gave me an entire morning/afternoon OFF. 'Had a restorative long coffee with an artist friend early. Then, for the rest of the day, I was alone.

Not that I don't like being with Moses. You know I do. But there was some serious stuff I just needed to process with the Lord, and sometimes it's hard to do that while a kid is measuring you with a measuring tape, punching buttons on your laptop, and grabbing your left arm. like what is happening right now... hang on...

Hahaha. OK. Redirected.

Anyway, obviously no time to type everything here. But one specific thing I was needing guidance from Lord on was how to get untangled from STUFF.

Honestly, I feel like I'm drowning in it, and that is hindering my ability to pursue a more focused life. I don't know how I would even begin to pack/move right now. Even if we found the perfect house at the perfect price. We've lived here seven years, and every room is full. I have no idea how much of this we really need or how much we could do without. Therefore, I don't know how much room we ultimately need to live.

This feels daunting. It would take weeks (or months) to really minimize, and I have the attention span of Dory the fish. I can barely find my way back out of Wal-Mart once I enter those sliding doors.

Also, I don't like spending energy developing perfectly amazing rooms. Only rarely will I look at women's magazines or decorating blogs trying to find cute new things I could do with this or that. When I do, it's task-oriented, not joy-oriented.

Not that redecorating is wrong, it's just that rooms don't interest me much when there are books to read. So for YEARS, I've just kept a Pottery Barn or two in the bathroom for ideas. I love that style. And I figure if I can't learn what's happening in there, I can live without it. So anyway, what I'm saying is that I'm very rarely the sort of girl who starts simplifying rooms for fun.

(Rabbit trail. What I REALLY wish is that I could get my friend Katherine to get her tail out of Mexico and come plan my everything for me. She's cool enough to hang pictures her daughter painted dancing with her first pair of real toe shoes, tears up wallpaper into pieces before putting it on the wall, and picks the perfect greens. Hint. Hint. Come plan my life, Katherine.)

Anyway. The clutter is prohibiting any major life changes I might need to make. So maybe I should start there. If you're naturally domestic, this might sound like an overstatement, but it's going to take the power of God to make this happen. I would appreciate your prayers.

I'm thinking about starting with one room. Probably our bedroom so when I wake up there every morning, it will remind me to keep going.

I'm also motivated because there are several good faith-based charities that need stuff donations right now. Bobby heard last night that clothes were a specific need. (If you actually know me and live in my town, which I'm intentionally not making public, I can clue you in to what those are. Email me.)

Anyway, I'm thinking about weighing all of the stuff I get rid of as I progress from room to room, keeping a log. I'm curious about how many stuff-pounds we can lose. :) If anyone wants to jump in on this project with me, you can send me the weight of your donated stuff-pounds, and we'll see how much baggage we can lose together.

One of the things I LOVED about China is the emphasis on minimalism. Artistically, this is what has always drawn me into Chinese art. Each line matters. Each line holds power, grace, and passion. A little is enough, if a little is pure. The beauty of the simple is found in Asian calligraphy, painting, and interior design. It was so much easier to focus in rooms like this. I'd love to integrate that concept into my life more deeply.

Ugh, I'm running out of time to write. But I wanted to throw this out there, just in case anyone feels like jumping in and doing this with me in their own homes. Maybe we can pray and cheer for each other.

Also, if you have done this before, what guiding principles have worked for you? How do you know what to keep and what to give away?


Gotta run. This old song comes to mind.

'Tis a gift to be simple,
'tis a gift to be free,
'tis a gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

Shaker Hymn

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hiding from my flesh

Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains."
(2 Samuel 7:2)


One morning David woke up, and everything was clear. He was living in luxury while his center of worship was housed in a tent.

David was a spiritual man. He was committed to God. He wasn’t serving idols. At least he didn't think so before the epiphany hit.

You know the rest. God told David He wanted another king to build that temple.

Still, these two verses keep pushing themselves back into my mind almost daily since China. Where do I dwell? And where am I content to let the work of God dwell?

‘Mentioned this to Bobby this morning while we were waking up, and he reminded me of this passage:


6"Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7"Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

(Isaiah 58)


The words that catch me are the last eight. What is my own flesh?

Until last month, “my own flesh” meant my two birth children. My brother. My parents. If I saw them naked, starving, abused, would I continue life as normal? Unthinkable. I would do whatever it took to defend and sustain them. That is deep in my blood.

But on July 19th “my own flesh” grew to include an adoptive union made by God. I don’t know how to describe this adequately for those who haven’t adopted a child yet; but I can feel it when Moses falls asleep in my arms, little fingers woven tightly into my hair. It is a tactile, primal, maternal bond. He is familiar in the same way the sound of my own breath is familiar inside my chest. And I can feel the force of this rising up inside me when old men stare. I would fight for him. I am his. He is mine. We are the same.

Isaiah says “my own flesh” goes beyond this. To the unnamed. To the uneducated. To the broken. I believe this with my mind, but not fully yet with my heart. I want to. I am theirs. They are mine. We are the same.

Last night, our church leadership + the community outreach team met with the leadership of a local ministry that provides food for the hungry. The lady who started this outreach has apparently seen some hard stuff. She's been hungry, and she knows what it feels like to ask for food. While she was struggling, she was treated with disrespect because of her need, sometimes by church ministries established to help the poor. She is determined to do things differently, now that she's in a position to help others.

She doesn't mince words. Her life is colorful and so are her metaphors. Trust comes slow for her. Raw and real. More in touch with the reality of her own flesh than I am.



Nothing ever seems to change
But miles away beneath the waves
Down below the dirt
Hotter than a flame
In the belly of the earth
He has given you a Name

from Andrew Peterson's
"Mountains on the Ocean Floor"

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toddler games

Moses has found a few things he LOVES the past two days. I thought I'd pass them along to the other toddler mommies.

1.) Pressing the sides of Matchbox cars into Play-Doh. This makes an exact impression of the car in the dough, which is really cool for a three-year-old boy. You can see the doors, windows, lights, etc.

You can split a can of Play-Doh into thirds, if the cars are small. Then you can make those dough cars pretend they are driving, stretch them, wad them up, etc. He probably spends twenty minutes a day just doing this.

2.) We have this game called Bananagrams. It's sort of like Scrabble tiles in a bag. Moses likes to pour out the letters into the floor and sort them. Then he 'feeds' those to his stuffed bunny (voice and actions provided by Mom). This week, the bunny likes the letters: O, I, A and E. Bunny says, "No thank you," if you give him any other letter. Well, except if you give the bunny a letter "S." If you tried to feed the bunny an "S", he spits an angry zorburt and throws an awful fit. Then we have to scold Bunny. It cracks Moses up.

3.) Another option for using Bananagrams tiles? I hand him a pile of vowels only. He gets to put those in any order he wants, and then I have to point to one at a time and "sing" a made up song using only those sounds as lyrics. So, it might sound like, "EEEEEE, OOOOO, A, A, EEEEE, I, UUUUUUU." (Wow, that is hard to put into print.) Anyway, it makes him laugh to make me sing something that sounds so weird.

I also learned NOT to teach toddlers "The Grand Old Duke of York." Moses went crazy about that song and kept saying, "Again! Again!" every time we were finished. He expected me stand up and sit down with him all two hundred begillion times we sang it. Man, what a workout.

I'd love to hear a few of your favorite toddler games/songs if you get the chance. He's just turned three, but since he's still learning English, we can do activities for younger kids as well.

Oh shoot. There was something else I was going to post, but I can't remember what it was. If it resurfaces I'll add it in later.

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clarification

A note about the video I included in my post titled "I don't know the answer to this." (CLICK HERE TO READ IT)

I collected all of these pictures privately a few months ago. They are not an attempt to criticize any particular product or person mentioned. I'm sorry if it seemed that way. In fact, I included several of my own family photos in this mix when I first compiled it; but for privacy reasons, I removed those photos before posting here.

Initially, I collected these photos out of curiosity. I wondered what effect it would have on my heart to look through such diverse images in rapid sequence.

I have bought some of the products shown in the video. I have listened to some of those teachers. They are not all negative images for me, since many of the nicer pictures reflect the world I live life in daily. However, I usually segment my life so that certain areas don't mix emotionally.

But I was thinking about how the Lord sees all of these things simultaneously. So, I decided to see what feelings a vision more like His might elicit. I was shocked to see how simple images, without adding a single word, were so disturbing when I shuffled them all together.

I don't know what word to use to describe the feelings I have when I watch this. I certainly don't think all nice things are bad things. And I don't have a prescription to hand out that fixes this disparity. I guess I just wish my life were a little more cohesive, and I'm not sure how to get there. But maybe that's unrealistic.

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his neighborhood

Because I don’t live there
I am thankful.

But when I shut my eyes
it’s no longer like waking up from a bad dream
that I can reason away.
Or like a song
that stops when the channel changes.

Every morning those faces return.
Every dawn, their darkness pulls my waking eyes
from one reality to another,
reminding me both exist as halves,
day and night.

This magnitude of hopelessness,
this magnitude of wasted potential,
a warm child sleeping in my arms
soaking into the fabric of this green oasis
won’t let me forget
that being thankful I wasn’t born there
doesn’t resolve what I left behind.







"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."
Winston Churchill

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I don't know the answer to this.

The sermon at church yesterday was about “comissional” living. (Combo of missional and community.) Interesting topic that plays into my existing questions about where to live next. I'm thankful Bobby had a few minutes to chew through it with me this morning.

In my 80’s-90’s evangelical world, there was a big push for community living. Faith-based support groups were established. There was a focus on vulnerability and accountability. Churches developed community/cell groups where families would gather and share life. Deep writers with a psychological bent like Yancey and Crabb became very popular, because we wanted to know ourselves and others. These were all attempts to reject the highbrow, fakey piety of earlier generations and nurture something real.

But a conviction seemed to rise with the 21st century. During its pursuit for authenticity, the American church became too introspective in places. We were wealthy, strong, and found that we could live amoebic, "holy" lives separate from a greater world in need. Sure, we sent money to help people “out there.” But the main focus of much of the American church became absorbed with felt-needs and internal health.

Globally, millions of people died without water, food, or hope, while American Christians like ME bought mass-produced plastic Christian knickknacks at Lifeway. We filled our bathrooms up with cute little Bible verse signs made in hellacious factories overseas. We bought multi-color Jesus pens. We went on Bible study cruises. We attended princess-themed women’s retreats. We spent money on sound systems, and light systems, and game systems, and wore Jesus on our shirts like embroidered animal logos.

We ate our holiday candy until our tummies hurt. And we slowly realized something was wrong.

So the pendulum began to swing. Enter the call to social justice. New writers began to dust off of old verses about caring, going, BEING there. There was a push toward community OUT instead of community IN. People began to use terms like, "radical living." I have theological apprehensions about certain aspects of this movement, but I'm not going to write about those today. My bottom line for this point is that the church was encouraged to start taking Jesus literally with their lives.

And so the Christians started moving into downtowns. Started helping abandoned kids. Started giving themselves away to the oppressed. Began listening to and retelling the stories of the voiceless. Started moving overseas and pouring healing into places full of hurt.

Our family entered church ministry during this philosophical shift. I'm so thankful. I needed the help of both movements, even though neither has been perfect. And I'm grateful to have been ministered to by each of them. Many areas of my life that need reform have been exposed, my hypocrisy is still being brought to the surface, and it has been fascinating to watch churches refining the Church get refined once more.

Yesterday, I was thinking about these shifts in light of the term “Biblical community." And I was thinking about how every attempt I’ve seen from the 80’s forward to recreate Biblical community (internal or external) has been affected by one major cultural barrier.

Modern Americans are independent. We are autonomous. There’s not a natural, necessary exchange of life built within most communities like there was some places 2,000 years ago. I don't know the people who make my dishes, weave my fabric, or trade eggs. Many of us don't even know our neighbors. We shut our windows, and turn on the air, and live virtually sitting in front of screens. So whether the church is attempting to create internal psychological community or external social justice community, a strictly “Biblical” pattern is going to be a tough form to emulate.

We don't usually have the option of transforming a physical, fleshly community that already exists into something “Biblical." The beginning of whatever work this is would have to start with nurturing a basic, skeletal “community” on which to hang the clothes of Biblical love. And it's impossible to create this in a vacuum.

Political forces have opinions about community. Economic forces have opinions about community. The pull we feel to and from various options has root systems that influence secular sociological trends as well as sacred. Not all of the urges hitting us are sourced in Jesus.

So, I wonder what implications the temperature of our culture has on us? (Consciously or subconsciously.) And how should that affect the spiritual prescriptions we get filled? (Selfishly: How should it affect where I should look for a house?) What does discernment look like in light of all this? How can I go into this with eyes wide open, and a pure heart? No answers yet still. But adding these questions to the pot.

2.) What are the essential, light-giving aspects of "Biblical living" that can be applied within modern, Western community? Should I spend energy helping nurture new community structures, or should I creatively adapt to what exists comfortably already?

3.) How has where I am living in time, economy, and politics affected my inclinations? The inclinations of other voices influencing me? And how can I see those more objectively?

Moses' diaper leaked through all three layers of my clothes mid-service yesterday. Bobby filled me in on a few concepts from his sermon that I think would apply here. 'Going to try to find it online soon.




A note about this video:

I collected all of these pictures privately a few months ago. They are not an attempt to criticize any particular product or person mentioned. I'm sorry if it seemed that way. In fact, I included several of my own family photos in this mix when I first compiled it; but for privacy reasons, I removed those photos before posting here.

Initially, I collected these photos out of curiosity. I wondered what effect it would have on my heart to look through such diverse images in rapid sequence.

I have bought some of the products shown in the video. I have listened to some of those teachers. They are not all negative images for me, since many of the nicer pictures reflect the world I live life in daily. However, I usually segment my life so that certain areas don't mix emotionally.

But I was thinking about how the Lord sees all of these things simultaneously. So, I decided to see what feelings a vision more like His might elicit. I was shocked to see how simple images, without adding a single word, were so disturbing when I shuffled them all together.

I don't know what word to use to describe the feelings I have when I watch this. I certainly don't think all nice things are bad things. And I don't have a prescription to hand out that fixes this disparity. I guess I just wish my life were a little more cohesive, and I'm not sure how to get there. But maybe that's unrealistic.

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Surely so.

Two Black hens finally captured. Higher, safer fence tacked up for the night.

Buff found, but deceased. 'Looks like a kitty attack. Bad kitty.

I'm pretty sure our first egg was laid in the Acuba bush where the two black hens were hiding most of the day. I think that because Betsy was chewing on something when she walked out of it.

So much for our first full day raising chickens.

On the brighter side, Moses learned to give bear hugs tonight. He thinks they are hilarious, and he sounds like Chewbacca when he gives them out.

Also, this is how he kisses us us. I'm writing it down so I don't forget this ever.

First he says, "kisses," and kisses one cheek, grabs our nose HARD, turns our head to the side, says, "again," kisses the other cheek, grabs both cheeks then says, "noze," kisses our nose, then pulls our nose down, says "eye," kisses one eye, then turns our face to the side, says "eye," kisses the other eye. Then he's done. Dusts his hands off like he's just planted a tree.

When he's decided to bestow the kiss ritual on someone, if you stop him midway, he starts at the beginning and does it all over again.

I was telling him tonight, "I love you SOOO much!" So he's started saying, "SOOOO MUCH," whenever he means, "I love you."

Quick memories I don't have time to write out the long way:

- How Moses hides our Camelbaks in shoe closets when he thinks we aren't looking. And that crazy mischievous look he gets on his face when he does it.

- How he won't let me read the insides of the Bible story book because he keeps pointing to the cover, pointing to Jesus, and saying, "JEEEEZUS! JEEEZUS!" Well, unless we turn to the page where the disciples won't let the children sit on Jesus' lap. Then he points a finger at the bad disciples and says, "NO! NO! NO! NO!" at them.

- How he says, "Kuk, kuk, kuk, kuk, Keeeeekin," instead of "Chicken".

- How hard it is to keep him from running up to the front of the church when Bobby's teaching. How he wants to yell, "DADDY!" and run up and grab him.

- That he likes red peppers. Calls grapes, "Mae-toes." And apologizes to furniture when he bumps it, "Sowwy."

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Surely not.



The two blacks are home. Sadly, finding them and catching them are two different things. They won't come out of the bush beside our house.

We have a cat named Pippin. Tonight I noticed that his stomach is really, really full.

'Still can't find the Buff. Surely not.

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Oh, Grrr.

So, the plan for today was to head out after lunch and buy taller fenceposts for the chicken yard. We had 4' posts (which we heard were tall enough, since their wings were clipped), but we wanted to add a little extra just in case.

Before we sat down to eat, we threw in a bunch of table scraps. The hens were LOVING pecking around in breadcrumbs and produce bits.

When lunch was over, we ran out to check on them. The chickens were GONE. Betsy (the golden retriever) had been wanting to get to know them before lunch, and we think she tried to go make friends while we were eating.

I knew she wouldn't hurt them, just try to snuggle and play with them... so I was 99% sure they went into the woods. They love to scratch and peck, so this was just a logical choice.

Unfortunately, this time of year, our woods is poison ivy mecca. I'm super allergic to it, so, I put on jeans, rubber boots, an anorak, and gloves trying to protect myself. 'Grabbed the butterfly net and some food. 'Started traipsing carefully, trying to avoid rattlesnakes hiding behind fallen logs.

I found one black hen just inside the edge of the woods. 'Shook the box of food. She was interested, but wouldn't let me near her. So far, I can't find the other two.

Chased the one hen into the woods far enough to smack myself HARD in the face and hair with a massive poison ivy branch. You have seven minutes to wash it off with soap, right? So, I started weaving my way back toward the house as fast as the terrain would let me. Changed clothes. Washed face. Washed hair.

I could see the humor in all of this, if it weren't happening to me. I've been aching for wilderness and all that. So, Dreamer, you want untamed beauty? Here you go. Have at it. Waterfalls. Majestic skies. Loamy earth. Chickens that run away. Weeds that make your face swell shut. Rattlesnakes.

Sigh.

Quote from Martin Luther on the outside of the church bulletin today:

“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people, O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?” (Life Together pp. 17-18)

It seems like the context here is comparing two different types of community (enemies v. devout), instead of comparing solitude with community. And heck, to be frank, I'd prefer domestic privacy either way.

However, this quote still struck me pretty hard. Especially this one part: "If Christ had done what you are doing..." He chose to live somewhere uncomfortable.

I still don't know how this fits into our next house search. I'd especially like to know how the discipline of solitude and nuances in spiritual temperament jive with obedience. But some important questions are starting to come to the surface, at least.

#1. What if Christ had done what I am doing?

P.S. If my eyes swell shut, I won't be posting tomorrow.

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Houston, Tranquility Base here. The chickens have landed.


































Best Husband in the World spent most of the day working on the coop. We need to add a little more plywood and shingles at the bottom (we ran out and decided top was priority overnight), add sides, and add a little edging thingy on the very top of the roof. But we're getting closer.

Clara is now trying to decide on names for her three new hens. There are two Black Australorps and one Buff Orpington. She has narrowed her choices down to these:

1.) Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

2.) Heggity, Peggity, and Peck

3.) Larry, Darrell, and Darrell

4.) Clickety, Clackety, and Cluck

Any votes?

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smattering








































Only a few minutes to write today. Building a chicken coop. Fifth grade birthday party. Laundry. Clearing dead vines out of the garden.

Note to self posted on the virtual refrigerator door. Don't forget next week to find Kathleen Norris' The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and 'Women's Work'. Dig around in there. (Or do any of my local friends own this?)

Uploading some photos but I can't get them in the right order. Sorry. HTML illiterate.

Three show what happened when I finally made stir fried veggie rice instead of sandwiches. Happy kid.

Also, everyone should always eat fresh garden tomatoes like this. I tried it, and yes, they taste WAY better than when you use a fork.

Psalms this morning. No time to write more about it now, but I'm posting something that's been churning a few months. It's not quite right yet. Creative insight welcome.


"Prodigal Song"

It was Sabbath walk and raining.
My steps wound past the tall, proud shapes of the woods
into a clearing where a thousand winter grasses
stood communal, bent with sorrow,
weeping slow, round tears
from the ends of their insufficiency.

I knelt there in reverent awe
because it felt like a sacred place
where things made
submit bare, fragile forms
before the Unmade.

Holding my breath, I listened to
the primal sounds of honest sorrow
falling into soft, brown palms of cupped leaves.
The hymn of the penitent.

This prodigal song rose through nodding trees
that had gathered to hold council around the edges of the clearing.
Citing postulations on holiness, they exchanged
high, first-born conversations,
adorned with the white, priestly robes of new spring.

I held my breath.
Waiting for the verdict,
torn and unsure,
pulled between divided harmonies,
not knowing at all
what was best.

Until like a father running,
warmth and light tore open the sky
and bathed the surface of the earth,
shaking the mighty, pious branches
until they trembled,
weeping mercy and grace,
infusing every broken blade
with adoption.



- - - - -

Afternoon update.

Progress on the chicken coop below. We decided to take the roofline all the way down to where the doors will open for ease of design. Also, Bobby said the hinges should be on the bottom of the doors, so the eggs can be gathered easier. (Of course. What was I thinking?)

Nesting box bottoms made from the top of an old table JD found in the dumpster at school and some leftover plywood. Roof beams constructed from $5 worth of 2'x4's that used to be ladders (we think). We found those at the Habitat for Humanity store.

The Habitat for Humanity store is amazing, BTW. Thanks for telling me about it, Jeannette and Dana! Apparently they sell extra parts left over after construction jobs, and the profits go back into HH. This means you can repurpose, snag a bargain, AND help a good cause all at once.




















(Below: Something cool Bobby found on the side of the road. Could this be converted into a feed box?)





















The birthday party Clara attended was at Chuck-E-Cheese. A friend had given us a gift card for Moses to use there, so I took him along. When Moses is in a totally new environment (which is common lately), he doesn't smile. He just gets this intense look on his face, like he's trying to understand. You can see that here. He really enjoyed most of what we did, though.

He almost creamed a few little kids launching skee balls. He would roll a few, then try to just throw them in the holes. His force was good, his aim was crazy.

Gotta run...










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for the love of place

This week I’m reading Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Carr. It’s an Out of Africa sort of autobiography about a young New York fashion designer who followed her photographer husband to Africa in the 1940’s. The marriage was listless, and Carr’s love for her husband wore thin. Her love for Africa did not. After their divorce, she remained in Africa as a single woman, working to oversee (and eventually own) a plantation of her own.

Spending most of her life in the Congo and Rwanda, Carr watches the colonialism that issues her passage to Africa give way to revolution. Eventually she observes the political unrest that leads up to the Rwandan genocide of the mid-nineties.

As I’m reading, it’s obvious that Carr was raised in a different era. Though she respects the African people and considers many her friends, there’s still a we/they divide that can feel condescending in modern times. Also, her writing is generally without artistry or depth. What keeps drawing me back into the book is Carr’s love of place.

This is a concept that has troubled me ever since the China trip. I find myself wrestling with it daily, but I can’t find the answer.

There’s something within Rosamond Carr that locks into the wilds of Africa. She feels such a strong need for that place, she is willing to bear peripheral inconvenience for a natural environment that she finds essential. Particularly intriguing is that Carr isn’t an eloquent, romantic, dreamer. Poets are always falling in love with stuff, but Carr’s a pragmatist who stumbles into a soul-deep connection with something created. The ebb and flow of her natural environment permeate her to the point that she cannot remove herself from them. Place and self become so intertwined, she cannot separate the two and still feel alive.

I find a similar passion in Wendell Berry. He and I disagree on several issues, but he’s still one of my favorite writers. Timbered Choir is a collection of poems Berry composed on the Sabbath while wandering in nature. In these poems, he illustrates the soul-dangers of humanity being amputated from created things. When Berry is content to be a pilgrim and not a pharmacist, I believe he taps into profound truth.

It's hard to select one poem that demonstrates his insight. Most of his work relies more heavily upon natural metaphors than the one below, and I don't consider this his best piece. But still, ever since returning home from China, I can’t read it without tears coming to my eyes. I have seen this now full-force.

A Timbered Choir
(Wendell Berry)

Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.

I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective the planners planned
at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories
where the machines were made that would drive ever forward
toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw
the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley;
I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city.
I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered
footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.

Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments
of those who had died in pursuit of the objective
and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according
to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget
that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now pursued the objective
as if nobody ever had pursued it before.

The races and the sexes now intermingled perfectly in pursuit of the objective.
the once-enslaved, the once-oppressed were now free
to sell themselves to the highest bidder
and to enter the best paying prisons
in pursuit of the objective, which was the destruction of all enemies,
which was the destruction of all obstacles, which was the destruction of all objects,
which was to clear the way to victory, which was to clear the way to promotion, to salvation, to progress,
to the completed sale, to the signature
on the contract, which was to clear the way
to self-realization, to self-creation, from which nobody who ever wanted to go home
would ever get there now, for every remembered place
had been displaced; the signposts had been bent to the ground and covered over.

Every place had been displaced, every love
unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant
to make way for the passage of the crowd
of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless
with their many eyes opened toward the objective
which they did not yet perceive in the far distance,
having never known where they were going,
having never known where they came from.



The last two lines make my breath catch in my throat. To me, this is what “city” often means. Modern day Babels. Hand-made biospheres. Nature’s hymn, emasculated and bound like bonsai.

It is the story of Lot’s progression, moving closer and closer in to Sodom. Into a city where human progress becomes cerebral and proud, where mind claims dominance over natural order and moral rhythms. Truth is lost like the sun in brown smog.

All things come out of balance. All things come out of proportion.

I feel this danger as we are trying to think about where to live next. I've already written about how we need to sell our current home and move closer to the kids’ school. But I’m frozen. I can't begin the search, because I can’t figure out what my philosophy of “home” should be.

I'd like to run into these Appalachian hills and soak. And listen. And bring wounded children in from the cities to recover from the manmade hell they’ve had to live.

At the same time, I’m learning about people who intentionally move into cities, hacking out a giving life inside choking urbanity for the sake of bringing light on a broader scale. Beautiful.

Downsizing wouldn’t be hard for me. I’m not concerned about the type of house we have. But moving into a city would be awful.

I feel guilty about needing privacy when the world has so many needs. I feel guilty about this ache for place. Is it spiritual immaturity? Is it selfishness? Or, was I made like this for a purpose? Is this a time to die to self, or to yield to love as a calling? Ideally, is home strategic or sanctuary? How do we maximize four walls and eighty years?

And what if you’re an introvert who breaks out in hives at women’s events? Does that change anything?

If I could crack this, I think I could start planning seriously for a move. But right now, I’m stuck. And that stunts everything, since Bobby stays too busy with work to search for houses.

So, any thoughts? Any wisdom? Anybody else struggled with this and found some answers?

Including lyrics from an Andrew Peterson song. I love his good medicine.


Hey Jaime have you heard
A picture paints a thousand words
But the photographs don't tell it all
I see the eagles swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh Lord I never felt so small

And I don't believe that I believed
In you as deeply as today
I reckon what I'm saying
and there's nothing more, nothing more to say

and the mountains sing your glory hallelujah
The canyons echo sweet amazing grace
(Oh how sweet the sound)
My spirit sails, the mighty gales
Are bellowing your name
and I've got nothing to say
No, I've got nothing to say

Hey Jaime do you see
I'm broken by this majesty
So much glory in so little time
So turn of the radio
and let's listen to the songs we know
All praise to Him who reigns on high

(by Andrew Peterson)

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unicorns and honeybuns

Yesterday I took Moses to Sam's Club to exchange a pair of pants, and they were giving out free honey buns. I felt what I think grandmothers must feel before sneaking their grandchildren a cookie before dinner. Oh boy, oh boy! So, I unwrapped it, and waited expectantly for toddler bliss face. This was going to be GREAT!

Moses took one tiny bite and said, "Boo-yah" which seems to mean, "Don't want." He wouldn't even touch the wrapper after that.

We exchanged the pants, then we ran over to Earth Fare. Even though I can't justify spending quadruple on most hippie food, I love it there. Usually we run over a few times a month to stock up on cheap stuff... red quinoa, black French lentils, and barley.

Passing aromatherapy, I thought it would be fun to let Moses smell a bunch of the essential oils. Well, it was fun until we spilled the Essence of Medieval Stuff INTO my cell phone. Thankfully, that didn't kill the phone. However, even though I wiped and pounded the keypad into a paper towel three or four times, oil still oozes out whenever you push the numbers. Texting now squishes.

I think the right side of my face is now breaking out as a result. Also, if you call me in the next week or two, expect to be on speaker phone, because Essence of Medieval Stuff makes me a bit woozy at three inches or less.

Anyway, I'd forgotten to pack lunch and I was starving, so I grabbed a tray of brown rice, veggie sushi. On a whim, I handed a piece to Moses.

TODDLER BLISS FACE. He loved it. I had to fight him for my half. Hahaha!

I LOVE THIS KID!!!!

'Spent about half an hour wasting time today. It was wonderful. (Should I be ashamed to admit that?)

Below is what I found. In an attempt to assuage my temptation to buy these amazing shirts, I'm posting them below. If I were going to waste money, which I'm not, these would win. Especially the unicorn.

More to write, but no time. Running to pick up kids from school...








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valley of vision

I love reading Henri Nouwen's writing. He was a Catholic priest and scholar who taught at Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame before making a mid-life ministry shift to L’Arche community, a home where developmentally-challenged people can share life with their caregivers.

Nouwen moved to L’Arche to serve people who most of us see only as shadows. He moved there to pour out his life into the invisible. He yielded a safe, cognitive faith to the dangers of flesh, and as a result, the halls of L’Arche served as a spiritual birth canal. What Nouwen learned about beauty and love amid discarded lives was powerful.

Below, he writes about caring for two particular men at L’Arche, John and Adam:

"Yes, John and Adam needed help in their daily tasks, but I, too, was constantly saying, 'Help me, help me.' And when I had the courage to look deeper, to face my emotional neediness, my inability to pray, my impatience and restlessness, my many anxieties and fears, the word 'handicap' started to have a whole new meaning. The fact that my handicaps were less visible than those of Adam and his housemates didn't make them less real... I was going through the deep human struggle to believe in my belovedness even when I had nothing to be proud of... I found myself resisting this 'becoming like Adam'. I did not want to be dependent and weak. I did not want to be so needy. Somewhere though I recognised that Adam's way, the way of radical vulnerability, was also the way of Jesus."

- Henri Nouwen, Adam: God's Beloved

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." - I Corinthians 1:27-29

- - - - - - - - -

Most of the time, Moses will tell me before he has to go “law-wah.” (I don’t know what this word is supposed to sound like in Chinese, but I know what happens after he grabs the seat of his pants and says it.) This morning, he forgot to tell me first.

It’s been almost a decade since I’ve had a kid in diapers, and wiping poopy butts is not something I have missed. I think I have an overly-developed sense of smell anyway -- I can usually tell you what store a gallon of milk comes from by just smelling the plastic. So, bending over a law-wah-smeared rear end, getting a face full of yesterday’s garden produce literally makes me gag.

Isn’t it Elizabeth Elliot who tells moms to let their countenance reflect God’s affection for their child? Well, I’m sorry, but the only divine lesson Moses got from my face this morning was hidden somewhere in Lamentations. “Woe! Woe!”

Leaving the bathroom, I found graham crackers on the air vents. All the buttons on the dishwasher pushed at once. Little plastic things stuffed into places where little plastic things aren’t supposed to go. Marks from little hands, exploring a big, new world.

I remember raising a toddler the first two times, and how these things brought me to despair. I always felt like there were so many important things I was “supposed” to be doing, but there I was, cleaning up messes with no visible progress. Cute urban girls were changing the world, and I was losing my life, pouring it out into shadows and invisibility.

But one day I shut my eyes and opened them, and two fat little boy feet were suddenly covered in veins and hair, wearing a men’s shoe size 11 1/2. And storybooks were closed. And little plastic things were put where they belonged, and they stayed there, while the investments I made into invisibility (wise and unwise) continued growing on a trajectory. Lost things were resurrected. The shadows became light.

My story is different from Nouwen’s because he wasn’t able to see dramatic physical/mental growth in many people he helped. God had other treasures waiting for him at L'Arche. But still, as I’m revisiting toddler motherhood after a long hiatus, I am grateful for Nouwen’s reflections. His life reinforces something I missed as a young mom, that the grueling, non-glamorous work of service can be a rich, spiritual greenhouse. Helping the vulnerable urges me to consider my own vulnerability.

Because the truth is that I mess all over myself. I put things in the wrong places. I use too much. I drop things. I push too many buttons. I reek. I need a Father to help me. As I serve a child, I am also a child being served. Loved. Beloved. This is humbling, clarifying, purifying. I'm thankful.



“The Valley of Vision” (Puritan prayer)


Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold

thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.



Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter

thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

Thy life in my death,

that every good work or thought found in me

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.

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Quick update


Only three minutes to update before dinner...

- Moses LOVES the hand-me-down plastic golashes given to him by a dear friend. He insists on wearing them every time we watch Kipper, because Kipper also has some. I snagged a photo today. 'Will try to post that.

- Today must be "smell" day, because Moses has been smelling me ALL DAY LONG. Hilarious. I don't know if this is part of bonding or what, but he keeps burying his face in whatever part he can reach of me and inhaling. The entire day.

- A low kitchen drawer full of plastic cups (so Moses could serve himself) sounded like a good idea BEFORE he learned how to work the automated water dispenser on the front of the fridge. In the past ten minutes he has filled three different cups with water, and yes, he is drinking from all of them. Yesterday, I think he filled five at once. Woops. There he goes again. (Sigh.)

- I'll try to upload a video of Moses and Clara arguing about what he should call her. So funny!

I have more to write, but no time to write it. We are having a great time still.

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picnic table chicken coop



Well, I found a large, used, fiberglass picnic table for $25. Any reason why this repurposing job wouldn't work? We only want four chickens.

The run would be larger than this shows, I just ran out of paper. I'm thinking the table will be heavy enough not to blow around in a storm, but also mobile for when we want to change the grassy run. The chickens will get some free yard time, too. But they need a safe place for night time and when the cat is out.

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Things Fall Apart


This week I finally read, Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe (1958). The plot focuses on the effect Christian missionaries and British Colonialism had on a group of villages in Nigeria.

The topic was interesting to me for several reasons. Several books I’ve been reading lately have set the stage for questions about “cultural redemption.”

One is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. I’m not crazy about Mortenson’s writing style, but I was fascinated by his insights into Afghan culture. His life’s work shows the wisdom of humble social reform, rooted in the study of a culture’s true fabric. Mortenson shows how taking the time to listen well, humbly observe, and respect can maximize healing in desperate places.

Another related book is called When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert, et al. This is a Christian book that evaluates the way modern ministries often roll into “needy” neighborhoods, trying to force fast change. Fikkert argues that we are all impoverished in some form or another: fiscally, physically, spiritually, relationally, emotionally... and that we can only minister effectively when we realize our mutual need. In a related article, Fikkert writes:

"Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good. Research from around the world has found that shame is a major part of the brokenness that low-income people experience in their relationship with themselves. Instead of seeing themselves as being created in the image of God and as having inherent value and worth, low-income people often feel they are inferior to others and incapable of improving their situation. On the other hand, those with higher incomes tend to feel a sense of superiority -- what Myers calls 'god-complexes' -- believing that they have achieved their good fortune through their own efforts and abilities and that they have been anointed to save the poor. When the rich fail to embrace their own 'poverty,' their engagement with the poor tends to hurt both parties by reinforcing their distorted view of themselves and one another."

If you’ve ever read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, you will remember how all this relates to the core dilemma Lewis posited. It’s possible to think we are loving, when in truth we are attempting to consume. Forcing. Straining. Pushing. Until things fall apart.

Reading Achebe’s words, I felt a little defensive. Neither of the so-called “missionaries” in his book seem to really know Jesus. So, while trying to burst one unfair stereotype, Achebe actually ends up reinforcing another. I suppose in 1958, that pot needed stirring. Today, it seems disturbingly cliché.

Also, as a woman, I was horrified to read about the treatment females and children received in Nigerian culture. Colonialization might have wrecked the touchy man-sense that dominated village life. But what about the wife who had been beaten or the child who had been abused? Penetrate those hearts, and perhaps we would hear a different story altogether.

That said, I was still saddened by the arrogant, hostile change pushed upon Nigeria. I found myself asking how Mortenson’s principles could have applied in this situation. I wondered how Fikkert’s call to humility might have made a difference. I wrestled with how a non-consuming, life-giving love like Lewis promotes might be offered to an entire village in need.

I also found myself asking how all of this might transfer to adoption. Particularly an inter-cultural adoption. What dangers are inherent? How can we be sure not to make the same mistakes in the microcosm of our little family?

A dear friend of mine is adamantly opposed to international adoption. His argument is old, and you’ve probably heard it. He feels like it is a horrible thing to remove a child from his/her native culture and force a new one upon him.

I understand the gist of what he’s saying. Ideally, every child would live with a loving birth mother. No children in the world would be abandoned. No baby would ever end up in a hospital bathroom, or in an alleyway, or on a street corner in a box. That would be best.

But the reality is that kids are dying right now because the ideal isn’t an option. Watch The Dying Rooms on YouTube, if you want to see what’s really happening. I know the sidebar says that stuff ended in ‘94, but it didn’t. I know people who have seen such horrors within the year.

So, how do you move into a brutal culture, into a threatened life, with respect and humility? How do you offer what you have to give without consuming? How do you respect someone's past while giving him a future? How do you continually acknowledge your own poverty, so that the relational currency can flow two ways?

How do we relate to the culture that wounded our son -- that would have snuffed out his great potential -- yet also provides a brilliant heritage for him? How do we relate respectfully, gently, as co-learners and co-bearers of the struggles he will face? How do we help him know our deep, forever joy over his union with our family, while honoring any connection he feels with his past?

How do we talk about the needs we’ve seen in such a way that others are inspired to help, without stirring up the British to charge Nigeria?

I don’t know. But that’s what I’m thinking and praying about tonight. Any thoughts?

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Saturday

Today an advertisement for mass-produced, Amish paperback Christian fiction hit my email inbox. There are gorgeous, manicured models on all the covers. They are wearing lipgloss, high-neck dresses, and white Amish kapps. Their perfect innocence is betrayed only by a faint, wistful look in the eyes and three strands of blonde hair wafting in the wind. (Subtle nod to Robert Herrick's "Delight in Disorder".)

A friend told me you can buy these books en masse at Wal-Mart. I've been giggling all day that I can buy bulk Amish romance novels about a self-sustainable, anti-materialistic, simple life at the mega, mass-produced super store. Friends I respect tell me these books are great, so I’m going to give them a fair shot. Knowing how my life works, I’ll probably end up loving them after teasing everybody so hard.

But what’s next, the Wendell Berry Macbook? The “Don’t Kiss Me, I’m a Nun” graphic tee? Plastic-wrapped, Gethsemane-brand, sliced cheese food product? Bumper stickers that say, “My other buggy is a buggy”?

HOWEVER, my SIL says her neighbors are getting their cabinets redone by a self-proclaimed Amish construction company that uses power tools unabashedly in the front yard. So, alas. The old has gone. The new has come. My point is altogether moot.

‘Last night I was rested enough to start a new Bucket List, since I recently got to scratch “adopt a child” and “visit Asia” from my old one. (Woohoo!!!!!) I’m still tweaking, but here’s where I am so far. (Right now, too many of these involve getting on airplanes and large amounts of money. Both problematic. Also, quite a few are impractical and hedonistic. I'm going to stare those in the face and try to shame them off the list, tail tucked between their legs. Finally, of course I'd like to add "adopt another child, or two, or three" to this list. But since we just got home... maybe that should wait a bit. So, lots of inner conflict here. Someone please remind me Bucket Lists don't get graded.)

1.) Live in a refurbished, authentic red caboose
2.) Take tap dance lessons
3.) Learn to write/read Chinese
4.) Take a class in watercolors
5.) Learn to speak French
6.) Read 1000 more really good books
7.) Successfully grow larkspur, foxglove, hollyhocks, white peonies, lavender, orchids, and roses
8.) Relearn cello well enough to play the Bach cello suites
9.) Card and spin Alpaca wool on a spinning wheel
10.) Get really good at yoga (just the physical part, not the worship-the-sun part)
11.) Live on the ocean for a year or two ... or ten
12.) Take a pottery class that involves a spinning potter's wheel
13.) Attend the Rhythm and Roots Festival
14.) Write something worth reading
15.) Do one of those walking tours in Ireland or the Lake Country
16.) Volunteer in an orphanage for a month or two or twelve
17.) Learn how to make cold Thai spring rolls and vegetable Tom Yum
18.) Go live at L’Abri for a month or two or six
19.) Live in an ancient monastery for a month or two or six (unless Rachel makes me try an Amish community instead as penance)
20.) Wander around Europe for a few months
21.) Hike part of the AT
22.) Go help the Siffring's with medical work in Uganda
23.) That worship arts deal in the Northwest... oh what's the name? I need to look that up.

Our morning here was sweet. My friend, Mitzi, had an amazing quote on her FB profile a few weeks ago about the beauty of a normal day. I wish I could find it, but I didn’t see it when I went back to look. Anyway, today the kids and I finally had our first “normal” morning since Moses has arrived, and it was like a long drink of cold water.

Moses woke up earliest of all the kids today, and I had a new experience, looking bleary-eyed into the smiling face of a Chinese toddler who has independently engineered a bra into a football helmet/chinstrap. No, I didn’t take a picture, nor will I take one if that ever happens again.

He's a dream kid. I really can't get over how well we are all matched. Our living room looks like a Toys-R-Us + an art store exploded, but I don't care. We are playing, laughing, exploring, remembering what it's like to be three years old all over again. Wonderful. Bliss! What joy this little guy has already brought into our lives! We needed him in our lives so much more than we even realized!

Tonight we used a gift card to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Moses was amazed that we could just throw the empty peanut shells on the floor. He wanted to stomp on every single one of them, once he realized they made crunchy sounds under your feet.

We also found out that Moses LOVES country music. I could hardly keep him still when the speakers were blaring out, "Lookin' for love in all the wrong places." Country and bluegrass are different animals, but I'm still thinking we need to take him to the Carter Family Fold one night soon.

More thoughts on a separate topic coming. This post is too long as-is, and I've already yanked and rewritten it a few times. 'Sorry about that. Bad habit. I can't leave stuff alone after posting. It always looks different on the blog screen than it does in preview for some reason. Do subscribers get re-notified about a post every time I rewrite it? That's got to be annoying, if you do. Apologies, if that's how it works.

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decision.


Well... we had the conversation.

Clara tried to talk her dad into a falcon that she could train and command to hunt for wild game. Her dad told her she would have to be satisfied teaching chickens to perch on a little leather glove and commanding them to, "LAY AN EGG!"

In the end, she feels like chickens would be best for our lifestyle. AND, a family that rescues dogs has offered to parent Beethoven.

Now... we just have to get a coop built tomorrow. Tomorrow?? A photo of my dream coop is attached. Well, unless I can find a train boxcar on Craig's List...

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chickens v. schnauzer


The biggest struggle of our adoption so far has been Beethoven. He’s the mini-Schnauzer Clara received for her birthday last year. Moses is very scared of dogs anyway, but Beethoven seems to be his worst nightmare.

Betsy (our 107-lb golden) also used to give him the heeby jeebies. But Betsy moves slowly and lies in the floor most of the day, and Moses can now walk past her in the sunroom while making, “I'M NOT SURE ABOUT THIS!” noises. He’s even touched Betsy out of curiosity a few times, he talks to her through the kitchen window, and he will say her name when we are driving in the car. I think the two of them will eventually be good friends.

Today Bobby held Moses’ hand as they slowly tiptoed through the sunroom together. As they walked, Bobby announced, “Yea, though I walk through the sunroom of the valley of Betsy, I will fear no dog, for Dad art with me.” Preachers!

Beethoven, however, puts Moses over the edge. This is a little dog who moves fast, barks fast, breathes fast. And Beethoven doesn’t seem to care for Moses much, either. He howls at him like he’s an invader. I keep thinking it will get better, but it hasn’t.

Clara tears up every time we talk about finding a new home for Beethoven. Beethoven adores her, and I don’t want her feeling like a new brother forced a dog out of her life. I don't know what to do!!!

Today I found someone who wants to get rid of some laying hens. They aren’t just ANY laying hens, these are pet Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps. Those are the two breeds of hen we have looked at starting in the past, because they tend to be personable. Our yard is huge and secluded, so we would have room for a little chicken coop. And Clara LOVES birds... she’s wanted chickens for years.

I’m hoping... I’m wondering... I’m praying... would she be up for a trade?

If you know of anyone local who would provide a loving home for a mini-Schnauzer, please let me know. Clara would love to puppy sit him (for free) whenever you go on vacation. If she knew she could do that occasionally, she might be more OK with letting him go.

If not, maybe you could just pray that we can find a solution for this dilemma? I know it might not sound like a big deal, but I've never seen a child so terrified of a teeny animal. So, we are really stuck!

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bathtub.



Quick clarification regarding the last paragraph of last night's post:

Daddy gave MOSES a bath last night, not himself. Also, no, I will NOT be adding pictures of Daddy's bath time. I realize that may be a disappointment to some of you, but in the world of virtual transparency, we must draw the line somewhere. Your consolation prize is attached.

Thanks for catching that, Mom.

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today

Well, I found the cure for insomnia. During life before Moses, I had to fight to make myself go to bed at midnight. I'm just a high-energy person who normally hates to sleep. But now, I'm looking at the clock at eight, wondering if it can make it until ten.

Don't think I'm complaining. I actually LOVE this! I have so rarely felt tired in my life, I am amazed by how sweet rest can feel when you're totally zonked. It's almost as good of a feeling as a productive blowing of your nose when a really bad head cold starts clearing. (And with that word picture, Mom is REALLY wishing she hadn't shared my blog address with all her friends.)

The days here are busy but sweet. Moses is coming more into color every day.

I took him to the bookstore yesterday. I was a little scared about how it might feel to be the only Chinese kid in a totally white kids' section. I shouldn't have worried. He found a boy about seven years older than he was looking at a book. He snuggled in right next to him, and started asking questions (in Chinese) about what he was reading. Totally confident. Totally expecting that big kid to have nothing better to do than humor him. And the older boy loved it.

JD's late soccer games in the heat are tough. He gets wiggly and tired. But he's still a very good boy, and he's doing WAY better than I had imagined he would.

It's interesting to see him deciding that he doesn't like certain foods. This is a change from the compulsive, ravenous sort of eating he did the first week or two. He now seems to realize that more food is coming his way, and so he can be a little choosier. I stifled a giggle when he shut his lips tightly against a spoonful of baked beans tonight. I don't want him being defiant, but I'm so thankful the desperation of hunger is becoming a thing of the past.

His favorite foods? Green beans are a huge hit! (He says, "Green greens.") He loves fresh tomatoes. Zucchini, squash, broccoli. Meat (if it is soft). Rice. Fruit snacks. Skittles. Pizza. Candy. Yogurt.

Dislikes? He can't understand why we eat so much bread. He's not a huge fan of super sweet desserts like cakes/brownies. Milk.

Better run. Daddy is done with his bathtime, and I need to kiss him goodnight. I'll try to add pictures soon.

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leftie rightie

‘Just a moment to update.

We started home-preschool this morning. It’s my first experience teaching a “leftie”, and I’m surprised by how much difference it makes when you’re holding a child in your lap drawing together. I can write a little bit with my left hand (thank goodness), so I finally just switched and did my best on the awkward side.

Moses loves to learn, but it seems that he hasn’t done much one-on-one school up to this point. We did a few interactive papers on the number “1”, circles, the letter “A”, and basic handwriting motions. He’s still learning how to make a crayon go the right direction, but I feel like his mind grasps most concepts easily, especially considering our language barrier. I wish I knew how to translate more of what I’m teaching into Chinese. He is picking up more than his share of slack, though, learning English quickly.

Leaving the kids at school has been hard for him in the mornings. He doesn’t cry, but I can tell he’s wondering why we would drive all that way to just leave two of our favorite people in a building for eight hours. (I have the same question, BTW.)

One of the things I appreciate about Moses, though, is his trust. He’s been through so many transitions, and his world is totally new now. But he already loves us deeply, and he seems to believe that whatever we have in store for him is good, even if he doesn’t understand it. I wish I could download that sort of faith. It’s a hard concept for a worst-case scenario, control freak to grasp. Especially in the midst of chaos.

I was reading something in The Gospel Primer (Milton Vincent) yesterday about how understanding the depth of God’s love for us could free us from self-love-based fear. (When Moses goes down for a nap, I’ll try to remember to find the actual quote and add it.) I see that freedom lived out in this little guy. I wonder if they make spiritual jumper cables?

Better run. It looks like we’re playing Bananagrams next... :)

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kipper


The big kids are at school all day today, so it's my first day at home alone with Moses. It's gone really well so far. We got some housework started, and we played with some toys. Then, we found some good videos to watch and games to play online.


We didn't watch a lot of TV with JD and Clara when they were little. But since Moses is needing to learn a new language, certain kids' shows seem really helpful. Particularly, we are loving Kipper the Dog. The pace of that show is slow and calm, a lot of the action takes place to music (so he can infer what is happening without words), and there many simple phrases spoken one at a time.

Little Bear was my favorite when the big kids were small. I can't find those programs online anywhere, so if someone knows the answer to that, I'd love to hear it.

Better run. Moses just finished his fish sticks and apples. Time for a story and nap. He just crawled up in my lap and said, "Night, night!" Haha!

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garden tomatoes and octopus legs

























































I'm still getting over jet lag, so here's another brief post. Hopefully the photos will make up for what I'm too tired to type.

Highlights from today:

1.) One good thing is that Bobby found the cooked octopus leg JD had tried to save from the pineapple rice we ate at the Thai restaurant in Guangzhou. A bad thing is that he found it in the DRYER. (Apparently the spin cycle takes the little sucky cups off octopus legs. Those are yet to be found.)

2.) Moses is really enjoying all of the fresh food available here, and he adores tomatoes. He helped us pick garden vegetables that are just getting ripe, and he was so proud to help us bring them in the house. He ate a few before they made it inside... and a few more before they made it to the kitchen counter.

3.) I keep falling asleep at random times. I was trying to tuck Moses down for a nap yesterday and ended up falling asleep in his bed. I had this super weird dream that one of those lizards with massive flappy ear-things that runs on hot desert sand kept smacking into my face and sticking like one of those jelly-hands you get from a quarter-machine at cheap pizza places. When I woke up, I realized Moses hadn't slept, but he was kissing me on the cheek. Smack. Smack. :)

4.) I tried to give Moses a haircut tonight. I cut Bobby and JD's hair, so technique wasn't a problem. I did learn not to let the 3-year-old hold the buzzers while I grab the comb. (Stupid jetlag mistake.) Of course, he tried to help me finish the job. Thank goodness, I caught him after just a tiny notch had been taken out of one side, but we almost had a skinhead baby.

5.) Moses still adores JD. You can probably tell from the photos that he never wants to leave big brother's side. JD is being so patient, too. I bet it's going to be tough on the little guy when school starts. :( I am NOT looking forward to that.

OK, too tired to write any more. Thanks for keeping tabs. Night night!

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at the park











'Too tired to write tonight. 'Just going to attach some photos of our day at the park.

My house is a wreck. My flower beds are overgrown. But I can't resist watching him explore a whole new world outside.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful boy. I'm so happy to be a part of his life.

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meeting people

The kids had orientation at school last night. JD and Clara really wanted to take Moses so they could introduce him to their friends.

It was pretty crazy. Moses was tired because he’s still recuperating from jet lag, and he was also overwhelmed with all of the excitement. So many people have been praying for him, it was beautiful to see all the rush to meet him. I so wish he had the capacity to understand the love behind the joyful swarm of faces that were so new to him. But he’s only been on the ground a few days here, and I think he just wasn’t sure what to do with it all.

He didn’t understand the language, the body mannerisms, or the hustle and bustle of attention all focused on him. This is a child who has normally had to share one adult's attention with a ton of other kids, so having a whole bunch of adults interested him at once is very new. He’s never had that experience of being taken places and “fussed over” by doting grandparents, friends, etc.

He wasn’t really “bad”, he was just overwhelmed. He was arching his back, avoiding eye contact, wiggling, and generally not sure what to do with himself. I finally took him out to the playground to just give him some room. Then, some people who wanted to meet him came out there. That was a MUCH better dynamic than asking a tired three-year-old to be quiet in a crowded hallway.

SOOOO, if I had last night to do over again (for those of you who are going to face similar situations soon) I would have started out by finding a safe place like the playground where Moses could just play while people met him.

Now, I need to think through how to apply all this on Sunday morning. I know a lot of folks will be eager to see him then, too...

Hmmm...

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still processing...























































































One of the benefits I'm finding to East to West travel is that you naturally wake up early. Bobby had a 6:00 meeting this morning, so after he left I found some quiet time to read my Bible, pray, and just think.

Outside my window, tree frogs, crickets, and birds are the loudest sounds I hear. Morning light is shifting through greens like a girl trying on dresses. Faintly, I smell rain, wet earth, and grass. I feel calmed, pulled back into a seasonal rhythm that centers and restores. There's a sensory mercy in this natural beauty. A grace of God. A hymn written by my Creator. Healing, restful, instructive. A masterpiece tucked full with parables, lessons, reminders. I took this all for granted before our trip... that I wake each morning in a classroom... in a sanctuary.

Amid the luxury of this Created world, flashbacks of crowded, urban Asia cause a pain in my chest. It hurts to remember mile after mile after mile of density. Concrete. Pollution. Crowds. Choking man-made everything. Man-made, brown, thick air. Man-made places for my feet to walk. Man-made mountain buildings. Man-made subway caves. The smell and heat and taste of human effort suffocating almost every reminder of Divinity. A caged, grey world, for millions and millions of people -- the scope of their everything from birth to death.

I've heard so many criticisms about the oppression and suffering in China. But the one I felt most intensely - the one I still can't shake - is its urban density.

My morning grace is full of shifting greens. Twelve hours away, all greys shift to black. It makes me grateful. It makes me sad. It makes my hands feel very small.

-from Wendell Berry's _A Timbered Choir_

Here where the world is being made,
No human hand required,
A man may come, somewhat afraid
Always, and somewhat tired,

For he comes ignorant and alone
From work and worry of
A human place, in soul and bone
The ache of human love.

He may come and be still, not go
Toward any chosen aim
Or stay for what he thinks is so.
Setting aside his claim

On all things fallen in his plight,
his mind may move with the leaves,
Wind-shaken, in and out of light,
And live as the light lives,

And live as the Creation sings
In covert, two clear notes,
And waits; then two clear answerings
Come from more distant throats--

May live a while with light, shaking
In high leaves, or delayed
In halts of song, submit to making,
The shape of what is made.


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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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